Causeless Hatred and the Jewish State: Have We Learned Our Lesson?

Re-blogging this to – Rabbi Micah Streiffer is a colleague and former classmate and I love what he has written.

Rabbi Micah Streiffer

What, I’m not good enough to be blacklisted??

Those were the words with which I jokingly feigned righteous indignation last month when the Israeli rabbinate released its “blacklist” of rabbis from whom they will refuse letters of Jewishness for new immigrants. Others of my colleagues had similar amused responses: congratulating those who did make the list, creating multi-step plans for getting onto the next one.

But the truth is, that list ought to horrify us. Especially today.

Tonight bKotel.jpgegins Tisha B’Av, the 9th day of the Hebrew month of Av. On this day, we mark the traditional anniversary of the  destruction of the ancient Temple by Rome in the year 70. This is a seminal event in Jewish history: the beginning of a 2000-year exile; the loss of sovereignty that left us wandering around the world and vulnerable to antisemitism and persecution for centuries.

Like any event…

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Losing God in Jerusalem

Image: A human shadow against a wall of Jerusalem stone. This image appears with Rabbi Nafshi’s article in Lilith.

Every now and then I read something and all I can think is, “Darn, I wish I’d written that.”

My colleague Rabbi Robin Nafshi has published an exquisite essay on the Lilith blog, Losing God in Jerusalem.

I encourage you to click the link and read it. I’m not going to spoil it for you by saying more.

Is Wonder Woman Jewish?

Image: Directors Patty Jenkins and actors Gal Gadot, Chris Pine and Connie Neilsen talk about Wonder Woman at San Diego Comic Con, 2016 (Photo by Gage Skidmore.)

I’ve waited for this movie for 50 years.

When Linda and I sat down yesterday in the theater, I was wary. I’ve had my heart broken in movie theaters before. The first time I was nine, when Walt Disney tarted up Mary Poppins (1964) beyond all recognition, drenched her in sugar, and perverted P.L. Travers’ books. I felt I’d been robbed, and I left the theater sobbing.

I feel strongly about certain characters in literature.

So when there has been talk about a Wonder Woman film, I’ve perked up my ears, but I’ve not let myself hope too much. Hollywood has a way of messing up good stories, especially good stories with female protagonists. I was encouraged to hear that Patty Jenkins was directing; her writing and direction of Monster (2004) were miraculous.

I was even more encouraged when I heard that Gal Gadot had been cast as the lead. She is beautiful, she is strong, she can be very funny, and I liked the idea of the world hearing an Israeli accent in that role. A Jewish woman as a super hero? Oh, yeah!

I saw the poster and dared to hope. WonderWoman

As sexualized as the comic book figure was, as campy as the TV show, the image in the poster is that of a warrior. She is kneeling on a beach, at the edge of her world.  The sun behind her is either rising or setting, with no clues as to which it is. Is she at the beginning of a journey, or recovering from battle? Is her grave expression sadness or something else?

I won’t spoil the film for you. I spent quite a bit of it in tears, watching a brave woman do terrifying things in defense of innocents. Some of those tears were that I was finally seeing the movie I’d wanted to see ever since I first found a Wonder Woman comic book discarded on a sidewalk in Nashville 50 years ago and recognized her as mine. Some of those tears were the tears of a graying feminist who finally got to see a great movie about a wonderful woman, directed by a woman. Some of them were because the movie is genuinely moving, and occasionally pretty scary (take that PG-13 rating seriously, please.)

Does the film have Jewish content? You bet. It stars a Israeli woman. Wonder Woman may have a Greek name but she learns a very Jewish lesson: humanity was born good, with a terrible capacity for evil. The fight is to free that which is good while curbing that which is evil. It is not a simple task.

Go. See the movie. Let me know what you think in the comments.


Team Israel Kicks Tuchus

Image: ‘Mensch on a Bench’ with Team Israel player Cody Decker, March 5, 2017. (Screenshot/

Q: What does the Israeli Law of Return have to do with baseball?

A: That’s how a bunch of American Jews wound up playing for Team Israel in theWorld Baseball Classic (WBC) this month.

This week Linda and I have been enjoying watching a bunch of Jews take the World Baseball Classic by storm. Team Israel went in as a long shot (seeded 16th of 18!) and so far they have defeated Team South Korea (seeded #3) and Chinese Taipei (seeded #4).

Most members of Team Israel are American Jews who qualify for the Israeli team because they qualify for Israeli citizenship. Ten of them visited Israel last month, some of them for the first time.

They’ve attracted a lot of attention for their play, of course, but also for their team mascot, “Mensch on a Bench.” Cody Decker bought the doll online, and it traveled with them from the qualifying rounds in Brooklyn to the round robin in Seoul. The Mensch traveled in checked luggage, stuffed in one of their duffle bags.

World Baseball Classic is a tournament with complicated rules, and I will leave it to other articles to explain how players qualify for teams, how teams qualify for the tournament, and how the round-robin tournaments in five stadiums around the world finally come down to a championship at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles.

A lot of people have wondered how it is that Team Israel has 8 players with Major League Baseball experience (that’s the U.S. MLB.) This article from ESPN explains the details as they apply to the World Baseball Classic. In broad outline: Team Israel players had to fit the profile to qualify for Israeli citizenship under Israel’s Law of Return, which begins:

  1.  Every Jew has the right to come to this country as an immigrant.

To learn more about the Law of Return, you can read the Law and both its amendments on the website belonging to The Jewish Agency for Israel, which administers the program. There is a lot of misinformation about who qualifies for the Law of Return – when in doubt, contact the Israeli consulate or the Jewish Agency. Don’t believe what a random person says, unless that person is an Israeli attorney!

Team Israel will next play facing Team Netherlands in the Gocheok Sky Dome on Thursday March 8 at 7 pm Pacific Time. 10pm on the East Coast! You can find the rest of the schedule here.

Where to see it? MLB is the exclusive English-language network; check with your cable company to see if you get it. Another option is to follow the game via Twitter. Search for #TeamIsraelWBC  – you will instantly be connected to Team Israel fans all over the globe. If you choose that route, be sure and say hi; I’ll be online as @CoffeeShopRabbi.

Play Ball!

Update, 3/8/2017: Team Israel beat Team Netherlands 4-2, sweeping their pool. They are on to Tokyo for the next round of play. 


Members of Team Israel doffed their baseball caps and put on their kippot for the national anthem of Israel, “HaTikva” in Seoul.  PhotoChang W. Lee/The New York Times

Please note the correction in the time for the March 8 game: 10pm Eastern, 7pm Pacific.

Israel’s High Court requires a “good cause” argument why a woman cannot read Torah at the holiest site in Judaism

Rabbi Rosove explains the decision by the Supreme Court of Israel. He puts it all so clearly that rather than blog on it myself I am going to reblog his post.

(Photo credit: Women of the Wall)

Rabbi John Rosove's Blog

In a landmark High Court decision Wednesday, the State of Israel was given 30 days to find “good cause” why a woman may not read aloud from a Torah scroll as part of prayer services at the Western Wall.

A year ago the Israeli government coalition made an agreement with a wide range of Jews from around the world that included the Reform and Conservative movements, the North American Jewish Federations, and the Women of the Wall to create an egalitarian prayer space in the Southern Kotel Plaza under Robinson’s Arch that is equal in size and in access to the Northern Kotel Plaza that would be overseen by non-Orthodox Jewry and not the ultra-Orthodox.

This was a landmark decision that affirmed Israel as the great democracy that it is and that Jews around the world ought to have the right and freedom to pray according to their custom…

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More Terror in Jerusalem

Today there was another act of terrorism in Jerusalem: a heavy flatbed truck slammed into a crowd of IDF soldiers. The driver drove back and forth over the bodies, killing four and wounding 17. According to the Jerusalem Post:

Three female soldiers – 20-year-old Lt. Yael Yekutiel of Givatayim, 22-year-old Lt. Shir Hajaj of Ma’aleh Adumim, and 20-year-old Sec.-Lt. Shira Tzur of Haifa – and one male soldier, 20-yearold Sec.-Lt. Erez Orbach of Alon Shvut, were declared dead at the scene.


Yahrzeit candle

The driver was a resident of East Jerusalem; he was killed by gunfire from the IDF soldiers he didn’t hit. Hamas is celebrating him as a hero.

There’s a report of the murders on the Times of Israel website.  I recommend you take a look.

My heart breaks over and over again. Terror attacks do not intimidate Israelis. What will happen is that they will find a way to make the attacks more difficult, which will make Palestinian life more difficult. And around and around we go. In the meantime, the young people die.

I do not know any answers, I only know that every time I hear about another attack my heart bleeds.


How Israelis see the American Presidential Election

Image: Rabbi Stacey Blank blowing a shofar. Photo courtesy of Rabbi Blank, all rights reserved.

Rabbi Stacey Blank serves as the rabbi of the Reform/Progressive Kehilat Tzur Hadassah, outside of Jerusalem. I found her take on the election really interesting, and I look forward to sharing it with you.


RabbiStaceyBlank's Blog

I have been asked over the past month, “How are Israelis reacting to the results of the presidential elections in the US?”  So, after enough people have asked, I figured that it might be worthwhile to put out my analysis from my little corner of Jerusalem.

First of all, I will disclose that I voted absentee for Hillary Clinton.  I was very excited for the possibility of a woman president and I thought she was a well-qualified candidate.  I share many of her stated social values, and I believe that she sincerely cares deeply for the American people and has dedicated her professional life to improving people’s lives through public policy.  She is someone who has vast experience in national government and could have used that to navigate the presidency.  And I do appreciate an American government who nudges Israel to not forget about always trying to make peace, even…

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